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Press standards stress zero tolerance for underhanded behavior

Updated: Dec 3,2014 7:52 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING — After high profile cases involving media outlets that published favorable stories in return for money, 16 press standards committees have been established over the past two years across China.

The committees’ responsibilities include supervision of the media, responding to tipoffs, the prevention of unethical reporting and punishment of press standards violators, the Zhejiang Press Standards Committee said on Dec 2.

The committee called for journalists to show professional commitment and stressed that news reporting should be based on field interviews.

Leaders of 151 media organizations in Zhejiang signed a “zero tolerance” press standards pact.

The prevalence of new media, which have been aided by the rise of mobile Internet, is also under the committees’ supervision.

On Oct 1, during a live football match on a video-sharing website, one commentator’s slanderous and discriminating opinions caused public uproar.

The commentator and others deemed responsible were dismissed and the website apologized through accounts on various social networking websites.

Under regulations set by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), which manages the profession’s ethics and standards, the press credentials of any organization or individual will be revoked in cases involving unethical practice.

The authorities have intensified efforts to crack down on blackmail in the media and paid-for news since March. The problems identified include press cards being issued to people who are not journalists, news websites being contracted to advertisement or PR agencies and for-profit journalism.

Several cases of blackmail and extortion have been exposed this year, severely staining the image of journalism.

Chen Yongzhou, a reporter for the New Express newspaper in southern Guangdong province, was detained by police for allegedly accepting bribes and writing unverified reports.

Shen Hao, a renowned journalist and publisher of the influential 21st Century Business Herald, was arrested alongside other executives of the same paper for forcing enterprises to pay “cooperation fees” to avoid negative news coverage.

More than 25 Chinese media practitioners have been arrested this year for allegedly extorting “fees” in return for favorable reporting.

President Xi Jinping said during a seminar last month that culture and art professionals should not pursue commercial success at the expense of morals.

“The social benefit of their work must be put before everything else,” he said.

SAPPRFT said last month that it had revoked the license of a newspaper and suspended operations of three magazines for illegally transferring their publication rights.

“These violations were vile as they infringed on public interests; disrupted market and industry order; and affected the credibility of news organizations and journalists,” the administration said in a statement.